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Jason Van Boom
Jason Van Boom is a consultant, lecturer, and writer.

Christopher Hitchens’ Great-Grandfather Debated Atheists


by: on April 1st, 2012 | 6 Comments »

The best facts are often the least known. Here is an example: Most are unaware that the late and renowned atheist Christopher Hitchens had a great-grandfather who defended religion! Revd Edward Athanasius Hitchens (1839-1906) was curate of St. Guinefort the Holy Martyr, an Anglican parish in Gloucester, England. He was also an active participant in debates on religion as publisher and editor of the Anglo-Catholic newspaper The Invincible Aspergilium.

The Rev. E.A. Hitchens

In September 1897, The Invincible Aspergilium received a plaintive letter form a ten year old girl in Birmingham. Her plea sparked one of Revd Hitchens’ most memorable essays on atheism.


To Serve the People: Congress Agrees on New Debt Plan


by: on July 30th, 2011 | 4 Comments »

BREAKING: Congress has agreed on a new debt ceiling plan! Huge savings will come through a Social Security and Medicare reform program that’s also eco-friendly. It’s called “Soylent Green.” Obama: “We’ve always known that the solution to these problems lies in the American people themselves.” Details to follow.

Greek Mythology and Facebook


by: on January 14th, 2011 | 2 Comments »

According to Greek legend, an eagle would torment the bound Prometheus every day by changing his Facebook page format.

"But I was happy with the old Facebook! Really!"

The Tragedy of Obama, in One Sentence


by: on December 7th, 2010 | 10 Comments »

“The Tragedy of Obama: a corporatist centrist giving endless concessions to Republicans who (successfully) portray him as a radical leftist.” – Anatoly Karlin, geopolitics analyst and blogger at Sublime Oblivion.

The Black Legend: Guy Fawkes Night and the Persecution of English Catholics


by: on November 6th, 2010 | 1 Comment »

"All your Church are belong to us!"

In the Reformation, religious controversy and gunpowder mixed together on a large scale. Previous religious disputes involved swords, catapults, burnings at the stake, or sometimes just the pulling of beards and the smashing of wine bottles. In the 16th and 17th centuries, however, the whiff of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate became “the devil’s incense” for theological struggles. In the West, the blog posts have replaced cannonballs as tools of controversy. But in Great Britain on the fifth of November, Guy Fawkes Night keeps alive the memory of the era of “black powder theology.” In a way no one can ignore.

Guy Fawkes has long since passed to his eternal reward. But every 5th of November, he comes alive in effigy. His slouch hat and goatee once again make their appearance. Led by a procession of lit torches and the accompanying sound of firecrackers, jolly souls carry “the old Guy” to his fiery doom. Bonfires, burning in effigy, and fireworks complete the ceremony. It’s like a combination of Halloween and the Fourth of July.

Guy Fawkes’ Night commemorates the foiling of “The Gunpowder Plot,” which according to most historians would have wiped out King James, his court, and Parliament– and according to explosives experts, a good chunk of London.

On the surface, this seems to be an anti-treason and anti-terrorism holiday. Isn’t it a good thing to celebrate stopping such a horrible crime?

But there’s a deeper message to this, too. One that is very real for English Catholics.

Father to "No Islam!"

In our day, Islamophobes have used 9-11 as a means of spreading fear and hatred of American Muslims. Likewise, since the 1600s anti-Catholics in Great Britain used the bonfires of Guy Fawkes’ Night to attack English Catholics. This holiday was the capstone in the propaganda of “The Black Legend” – a term historians use to describe the image of a vast, nefarious Catholic menace seeking to subjugate the whole world to papal rule and the rebirth of “the Dark Ages.”

In reality, English Catholics were staunchly patriotic. Just as American Muslims have been key in fighting terrorism, English Catholics foiled a plot to kidnap James I in 1603, two years before Guy Fawkes’ “Gunpowder Plot.” English Catholics have generally opposed the very notion of blowing up Parliament and Crown. Although they oppose what the “Gunpowder Plot” stands for, English Catholics generally see Guy Fawkes’ Night not as a statement against treason, but as an element in the long campaign to paint Catholics as the devil.

American Muslims know what that’s like.

When will we stop associating beards with threats to "Homeland Security"?

Robert Spencer and Guy Fawkes: What about the original 9-11?


by: on November 5th, 2010 | 7 Comments »

"Does this hat make my bomb look big?"

The history of terrorism in the West has two key dates: September 11 and the Fifth of November.

9/11, of course, needs no introduction, its shadow is as prominent in our time as a Himalayan mountain overlooking a valley in Tibet. Britons excepted, we’re much less aware of the Fifth of November, in the year anno Domini 1605. The central figure of that day, Guy Fawkes, has become something of a hipster hero, thanks to the graphic novel and movie V for Vendetta. In contrast, the details of the “Gunpowder Plot” that made his name (in)famous is little known. But although we are less conscious of it, this seventeenth-century terrorism plot has left its marks on the Anglo-American mind. It was a key event in the demonization of Roman Catholicism. The fear of “popery” has, in turn, influenced the way Muslim-bashers paint a menacing portrait of Muslims today.

Which brings us to Robert Spencer. Among the legion of anti-Muslim bloggers and writers, Bob Spencer stands supreme — the alpha male of the Islamophobes, one might say. His position, as he argued in a recent debate, is “The only good Muslim is a bad Muslim.” That is, a Muslim may not be a terrorist or a jihadist only because he or she ignores or changes the basic principles of Islam. For Spencer, Islam is essentially violent — while Christianity is not.

The "Gunpowder Plot" would have devastated the heart of London. (Image: IOP/Guildhall Library)

Which makes one wonder what Bob Spencer thinks of Guy Fawkes. Fawkes’ plot, in relative terms, would have caused much more damage than 9-11 had it succeeded. Many today, including some Catholics, defend Fawkes, the way some “Politically Correct” people defend Hamas and Hezbollah. So, I ask Mr. Spencer: What’s your position? Do you condemn “Gunpowder, Treason and Plot”, and the current pro-Guy Fawkes fad?

This isn’t a “gotcha question.” I’m genuinely curious about what Robert Spencer what he thinks about Guy Fawkes’ violence. He did give an interview to the anti-modern right-wing group Tradition, Family and Property, an analogue to the Muslim Brotherhood from his own religion. We have mutual friends, so I know from his social circles there are people who reject Vatican II’s embrace of modern religious liberty and think Guy Fawkes a cool guy.

I would also like to know what Robert Spencer thinks of the way anti-Catholic bigots exploited this conspiracy — especially since James I spoke about Catholics in the same way that Spencer talks about “Good Muslims/Bad Muslims.”


Finding Inner Peace In an Age of Strife: A Few Good Quotes


by: on September 17th, 2010 | 3 Comments »

Edward Hicks, "The Peaceable Kingdom"

A friend of mine collected these. I find them helpful, and thought maybe others might find them helpful, too:

“What have I got to fear from my enemies? I carry my Paradise in my heart; it goes where I go.”- Ibn Taymiyya

“Be kind; for everyone you meet is fighting such a hard battle.” – Philo Judaeus

“God made all of us, and we all come from one woman, sucked one bubby; we hope we shall not quarrel; that we shall talk until we get through.”
-Chief Holata Mico to Gen. Wylie Thompson, Oct, 24,1834, in Seminole treaty negotiations


From Jew’s-Sow to Muslim-Pigs: A Medieval Meme from Hitler to the Islamophobes


by: on September 6th, 2010 | 4 Comments »

Muslim-bashers like to style themselves as “defenders of Western civilization.” Like all effective lies, there’s a certain grain of truth to their assertion. They do not stand in the Western traditions that support reason, liberty and tolerance. They do, however, recycle themes and motifs that have appeared in previous waves of fear against “witches,” Jews, lepers, Catholics, and others.

A striking recent example is the use of pig imagery.

The following image is from a German-language Islamophobic site (my apologies fro reproducing a blasphemous image, but we need to be frank about political pathologies):

Piglets suckling on a sow bearing the Arabic name of God. Translation of the caption: "Muhammad, from German lands. Fresh on the table."


Markets and the Real World


by: on July 29th, 2010 | 2 Comments »

Pity the discipline of economics! It has tried so hard to win the respect of all as a “science.” It even gets an annual prize in Sweden mimicking the Nobel Prizes for natural sciences. That may assuage its “physics envy” for a while. For most of us, however, economics is the “Rain Man” of academia. It has an impressive command of models and facts, and yet seems to be strangely out of sync with the realities of economic life. How do we explain this?

Over at The Distributist Review, John Médaille offers a few suggestions on this in the course of his review of a new book by Robert E. Prasch, How Markets Work: Supply, Demand and the ‘Real World.’ I have not yet read Prasch’s book. If, however, Médaille’s review does it justice, then How Markets Work should be in every progressive’s library. The reason is that it seems to offer a paradigm shift in thinking about how supply and demand determine prices and, most importantly of all, wages.


Kafka Goes to Canada: Ontario Passes Secret Police Powers for G-20 Summit


by: on June 26th, 2010 | 3 Comments »

Guess what? Arizona is more liberal than Canada, or at least, the provincial government of Ontario.

Ontario passed legislation giving police new identification-demand and search powers– and most disturbing of all, this legislation was passed in secret.

At least in Arizona, SB1070 was debated and passed in public.

From The Ottawa Citizen:

The Ontario government secretly passed legislation giving police sweeping new powers for the duration of the G8 and G20 summits.Police are now able to jail anyone who refuses to furnish identification and submit to a search while within five metres of a designated security zone in downtown Toronto.